Crash Course: Classifying Typography I

One of the most basic aspects of typography classification is whether or not the letters have serifs.

A serif is a structural element on the ends of letters in a typeface. A chintzy way to think about it would be to imagine how each letter has a little half-hat and/or half-shoe depending on whether you’re thinking about the top or the bottom. These can also be referred to as Roman typefaces–think about the age-old “Times New Roman” font that you used in all of your term papers.

The other kind of typeface division would naturally be missing this structural element. These other typefaces are classified as “sans-serif”. If you know any French, which I admittedly don’t, you can remember the difference by thinking about the French “sans”, which literally translates to “without”. These can be referred to as Grotesque or Gothic fonts for the more typographically-minded.